Wednesday, January 25, 2006

January 25, 2006 - Tales the Blood Tells

It’s one week to the day after my first chemotherapy treatment – so, first thing in the morning, I drive over to Dr. Lerner’s office for a blood test.

The procedure is the same as before. I’m led into the small room that I’ve been calling “the bloodletting room.” The phlebotomist greets me, pokes my arm, and extracts a test-tube full of blood (I’m getting very used to this routine by now). Then, as I hold a wad of gauze against the inside of my elbow, she turns to a nearby counter, on which sit two identical, gray machines – each about the size of those automatic bread-making machines that some people have in their kitchens.

With well-practiced motions, she pops the test tube into a little door on the front of one machine, presses a touchscreen, and – Presto! – a computer printer spits out two copies of my CBC (Complete Blood Count) report. It only takes about a minute.

One copy is for me to take home, the other for my medical file. Next, I’m sent down the hall into “the Nurses’ Room”: a larger room with glass-front medicine cabinets and a half-dozen patient chairs in a row against one wall. I’m the only one in this room at the moment – although, when I was here for my Neulasta shot last week, nearly all the chairs were filled with patients waiting to receive medication of one sort or another.

I hand over my file to Diane, the nurse who gave me my chemo medicines last week. A quick glance at the CBC report confirms “everything’s fine”: the levels of my white cells, red cells and platelets look just as healthy today as they were on the day I started my chemotherapy.

This is not likely to last, Diane warns. It’s a rare CHOP chemo patient who gets through all six treatments without experiencing a plunge in one or more of those key indicators. But for now, there are no restrictions on my activity. I can do as much or as little as I feel like doing.

I ask about hair loss. “Early next week” is the answer. Most patients lose their hair about 13 days or so after the first treatment, which for me would be Monday. But still, it’s hard to predict. Some patients take a little longer to lose it – in a few cases, not till after the second chemo treatment. It starts gradually: a few hairs on the pillow, or in the bathtub drain – though once it starts, it’s time to take action. Those hairs on the pillow are an early warning to get to the barber shop, or do whatever else is needful to prepare.

I walk outside into an amazingly warm and sunny day, for late January: the forecast today is for a high of 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius). I get into the car, feeling encouraged – grateful for a beautiful morning, and for treatment that is (at least for the moment) very tolerable indeed.


Anonymous said...

Yay! Hooray for good news! Every bit is to be celebrated! -Robin

Tarun Jacob said...

That's great! Praying as always!

Anonymous said...

Your normal CBC count is good news, indeed! Thanks for sharing it with us. JP